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How to Spot and Fix Keyword Cannibalization

Canibalización SEO

Keyword cannibalization might not be high up on your list of SEO priorities for your project compared to content creation, fixing technical errors and WPO. However, it’s essential to know how to identify and fix this situation for if and when it comes up.

Read on to find out how to identify SEO cannibalization quickly and easily thanks to SEOcrawl.

What is SEO Cannibalization?

SEO cannibalization occurs when you have more than one url ranking for a keyword and their click distributions are similar. For example, if your keyword is “cheap cars,” you’ll get SEO cannibalization if you have:

  • The homepage ranking with “cheap cars”: cars.com
  • A specific landing page: cars.com/cheap cars

However, just because you have several urls ranking for one keyword it doesn’t automatically mean that you have SEO cannibalization. For this to happen, there should be a significant volume of traffic to both urls.

Let’s use an example and analyze the results of Chess.com.

When does SEO cannibalization happen?

As we’ve said, for SEO cannibalization to happen, the click distribution percentage has to be significant: not 99% vs 1% for example. Google often carries out tests and changes the position of urls or moves one to the top for a couple of hours or days. However much this happens, if you don’t have a significant click percentage, it’s not classed as a cannibalization. To check this out quickly and easily, using SEOcrawl you can see the traffic and impression distribution for each potential cannibalization case.

SEO cannibalizations
Example of SEO cannibalizations for the keyword “chess”

It all may point to there being a SEO cannibalization, however this is not the case! As the results aren’t filtered by country, what you’re seeing on the screen is not actually a cannibalization, but rather the different urls that are ranking in each country for the keyword “chess.”

If you filter by country, for example Spain, you’ll see the difference in results.

Example of SEO cannibalization
Example of SEO cannibalizations for the keyword “chess” in Spain

How to analyze this data?

Once you’ve got the data for all the keywords, it’s time to get down to business. By default, you’ll see everything ranked by click volume and once you open it, you’ll see various analysis options.

  1. The first thing you need to check is whether the cannibalization is aggressive or not. In the image you can see the first url has 76% of clicks and the second 8.2%. The rest have a very low volume, so, in theory, you don’t need to worry.
  2. The second thing to check is if all the urls that appear are valid or if they can be deleted. Sometimes urls with filters or duplicate pages may appear, so this is a good opportunity for a deep clean.

Now comes the million-dollar question… How do you know if it’s a positive or negative SEO cannibalization?

How can you identify a positive or negative SEO cannibalization?

It’s easy! A positive cannibalization is when you have various positions in the search results and all pages have good conversion metrics. On the other hand, a negative cannibalization is when you have a page with low conversion metrics and the url that has better metrics is ranked below the first one in the search results.

A tad confusing? Here’s an example that’ll leave no room for doubt:

example of SEO cannibalization
Example of positive and negative SEO cannibalizations with metrics

Positive cannibalization:

  • Url example.com/1/ in position 3 with 10% conversion and 1,000 clicks
  • Url example.com/2/ in position 4 with 10% conversion and 750 clicks

Total: 1,750 clicks and 175 conversions

Negative cannibalization:

  • Url example.com/1/ in position 3 with 1% conversion and 1,000 clicks
  • Url example.com/2/ in position 4 with 10% conversion and 750 clicks

Total: 1,750 clicks and 85 conversions

As you can see, the url with the higher conversion rate should always be first in SEO cannibalizations.

And, last but not least, here’s one of the most important parts. Now you know how to identify and differentiate between positive and negative cannibalizations, all that remains is to discover the solutions that can be used in each case.

Potential SEO cannibalization solutions

The key thing to ask yourself, when looking at cannibalization solutions, is whether one is really necessary or not.

  • Case 1: If, for example, you have positive cannibalization and both pages are converting well, you can just sit back and relax.
  • Case 2: If you have a cannibalization where the page that converts better is ranking lower than one converting poorly, one of the best actions you can take is to delete it and use a 301 permanent redirect.
  • Case 3: If you have a negative cannibalization and want to keep both results but switch the order, the solution is to add more content, improve your metadata, etc.

As we’ve shown, in most cases, all you need to do is a thorough clean up using redirects and content optimization. This will help you get your dream search engine results.

Any queries, or feel like sharing an example? Please just get in touch! Request a DEMO and we’ll throw in a 2-week Enterprise account free trial.

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About the author

Picture of David Kaufmann
David Kaufmann
I was first introduced to SEO in 2011 and since then it has been a huge part of my life as it is something I am completely passionate about. It's my pleasure to be the CEO of SEOcrawl, an innovative all-in-one SEO software that is changing the way businesses manage their SEO strategies.

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